Eighty people were arrested yesterday in a three-province wide bust of one of Cambodia’s largest telephone-based extortion rings to date, according to the Ministry of Interior’s Internal Security Police Department.
The 80 Taiwanese and Chinese nationals were arrested during three simultaneous raids conducted by law enforcement officials in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Takeo.
The suspects, 23 of whom are women, were allegedly obtaining money from people in China and Taiwan via phone scams using voice over internet protocol (VoIP), which can mask the origin country of the caller. The suspects pretended to be police on the phone and demanded the victim on the other end of the line pay for overdue taxes, according to Chhay Sinarith, chief of the ministry’s internal security police.
“These people were all part of the same group of Chinese and Taiwanese VoIP scammers.… They hide in the outskirts of cities in Cambodia,” Sinarith told the Post.
Police have been investigating this extortion group for the past two weeks after receiving scam complaints from residents in Taiwan that date back several years.
Yesterday at 1:30pm, police raided the suspects’ rental villas. Eight members of the group were arrested in Phnom Penh’s Sen Sok district, Teuk Thla commune, while 44 were arrested in Siem Reap town’s Thvay Dangkum commune. An additional 28 suspects were netted in Takeo province’s Takeo district.
During the raids, officials also confiscated a number of VoIP telephones, mobile phones, motorcycles and other related materials.
“Our police are still questioning the suspects to work out this case,” said Sinarith, adding that the foreign nationals would all be sent to court soon.
An official from the Chinese Embassy in Phnom Penh declined to comment yesterday.
Figures for the number of VoIP crackdowns and associated arrests made this year were not available yesterday. However, according to a Ministry of Interior report, from 2010 until June 2013, about 600 Chinese and Taiwanese nationals were arrested for allegedly extorting money from residents abroad using VoIP calls.